Published: Thu, July 18, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

U.S. kicking North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey out of F-35 fighter program

U.S. kicking North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey out of F-35 fighter program

The first shipment of a Russian missile defense system has arrived in Turkey, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Friday, moving the country closer to possible US sanctions and a new standoff with Washington.

"Turkey has been a longstanding and trusted partner and NATO Ally for over 65 years, but accepting the S-400 undermines the commitments all NATO Allies made to each other to move away from Russian systems", the statement continued.

"Turkey can not field a Russian intelligence collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes repairs, and houses the F-35", Lord said.

"As soon as we have an announcement to make, I'll let you know", she added. The US government had warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that his government's purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russian Federation would be incompatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems and would trigger an exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program. She declined to say whether the decision is reversible if Turkey backtracks and gives up the Russian missiles.

Turkey had signed up to buying 100 F-35s, America's most sophisticated warplanes, and had invested heavily in the USA programme.

It has purchased Russia's advanced S-400 air defence system for $2.5bn (£2bn) and sent members of its armed forces to Russian Federation for training. If Turkey is removed from the program, as expected, the US will have to find alternative suppliers.

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The official was not authorized to discuss investigative matters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. Under New York privacy laws the decision, which will be made by NYPD commissioner James O'Neill, does not have to be announced.

Trump on Tuesday signaled a reluctance to punish Turkey with major sanctions over its acquisition.

Asked several times how Turkey having an air-defense system that cannot be linked to other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems and could be used to spy on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation jets would not harm alliance cohesion, Trachtenberg repeated some variation of his belief that the relationship between Turkey, the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will be able to continue.

Turkey had also argued that the USA was slow to offer an alternative missile defence shield. He pinned the blame on former President Obama for mishandling the situation in the first place.

"With all of that being said, we're working through it".

Turkey has complained that it was not given favourable terms to buy the USA alternative to the Russian S-400 air defence system. The White House, State Department and Pentagon have stressed that the system is not compatible with the American F-35 fighter jet, and officials have publicly said they believe the S-400 could compromise the F-35 program itself.

"The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program", said Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

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